Updated July 1, 2020
This is an uncertain time for all of us, and the Food Bank is doing our part to help ensure the health, safety, and food security of our communities. We’re focused on the needs of our partners and the people we serve, and we’re continuing to follow the guidance of the CDC and the state of North Carolina. We’re incredibly thankful for the outreach from our community wanting to support these efforts!
We also want to share some of the precautions we’re undertaking specific to COVID-19, on top of our standard, daily, safety and hygiene processes because of the work we do with food and distribution. We don’t yet know the long term impact COVID-19 will have, but as always, we are here for the long haul.
Anyone in our 34-county service area who needs help with food can visit foodbankcenc.org/findhelp to look up local members of our partner agency network using our Food Finder. They can also visit foodbankcenc.org/kidsmeals for a list of free grab-&-go kids meals sites. (Live outside our service area? Find your local food bank here.)
The Food Bank Is Still Open – And We’re Here For The Long Haul
On top of our normal operations serving the community, the Food Bank has distributed over 64,000 family-sized boxes, containing 20 meals per box, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. These boxes are what we’re hearing are most helpful to the community right now, providing more meals to sustain people during these uncertain times. Through coordinated efforts, these boxes are going to our disaster relief partner agencies, some school districts in our service area, and several Meals on Wheels chapters, to help support seniors on weekends. In addition to the pre-packed boxes we’ve been able to purchase (thanks to financial donations), small groups of volunteers have packed more than 8,000 of those family-sized boxes.
We’re continuing to stock and support all our local partner agencies on the front lines and serving our most vulnerable friends and neighbors across our 34-county service area. At the same time, we are putting long term plans and strategies in place to ensure continued support for senior citizens, children and their families, and those who are furloughed or have lost jobs. We’re also collaborating with partners in the Latinx community, such as Episcopal Farmworkers and AMEXCAN among others, to reach communities that have been made especially vulnerable. At this point in our response to COVID-19, we’re seeing an approximate increase of 35% in the number of people facing hunger in our service area.
When school is out – in summer and during other breaks – we know that families struggle to keep food on the table. Budgets are already stretched, and the stress of providing the meals that schools used to offer, is very real. This year, with schools closed since March, summer hunger has started early. We’ve connected with local vendors to launch an early start to this year’s Kids Summer Meals program (officially called Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP). So far, we’re supporting more than 40 sites for kids and teens across 15 counties in our service area, providing 17,500 meals per week. As some school districts are unable to continue their meal service to kids, the Food Bank is connecting with Nutrition Directors to fill gaps where we are able.
Our farmer and grower partners have been incredibly generous with their donations of produce, and we are very thankful to have fresh and nutritious food available to serve people during this time of increased need. Beginning May 18, the Food Bank began operating the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), receiving food directly from distributors and in some cases connecting the available food with our partner agencies directly. As with every new program, there are great opportunities and challenges to getting it right, We’ve now entered Phase Two of the program and expect to continue to receive additional fresh, nutritious foods to distribute to our network of partners. Beginning April 22, approximately 15 members of the North Carolina National Guard are on site in Raleigh, Wilmington, and Greenville, supporting our sorting and packing operations, and helping get more food out into the community.
How You Can Help the Food Bank Meet The Increased Need
As we shift our inventory and operations to meet the ever-changing need as well as prepare ourselves for Hurricane Season, funds are the resource we need most. They allow us to tailor our operation and find innovative ways of distributing food in the coming days and weeks. The Food Bank is committed to serving those in need, and we’re very thankful for the trust that’s placed in us.
Want to mobilize your neighborhood, church group, or other circle of friends? Holding a Virtual Food Drive is a great way to help – while practicing social distancing.
The Food Bank greatly relies on our volunteers, especially in times of crisis. If you are a healthy adult and want to volunteer, you can self-schedule a shift at foodbankcenc.org/volunteer
We’re excited to work with our agriculture, vendor, and agency partners to get this much needed food to the hundreds of thousands of people in our service area facing hunger. Many of these folks are needing support with food for the first time. We know that there is an impact for people losing wages and business and want to ensure we’re prepared to serve people who previously have not needed Food Bank support. Insights from 2008’s Great Recession show that folks in the service industry (including hospitality) may be disproportionately impacted, and there will likely be an increase in the number of children facing hunger and poverty, too.
May was another record-breaking month for the Food Bank, as we distributed 9.14 million pounds of food to our community. This is the largest single-month distribution the Food Bank has recorded in its 40-year history, toppling April’s record of 7.9 million pounds. At this time of unprecedented need in our community, and we are so thankful for all the support and work that went into ensuring the people we care for who need this food could receive it. Prior to COVID-19, a typical month’s distribution has been approximately 7 million pounds of food.
Taking Extra Health Precautions
We are continuing to implement more safety processes and are going above and beyond when it comes to cleaning all areas of the Food Bank. We’ve changed our model of getting food to our partner agencies: we now pull their orders from our warehouse for them, and load the food into their vehicles in our parking lots to keep everyone safe. Another change is we’re purchasing food that is pre-packaged and ready to go. This helps us ensure we follow CDC guidance when it comes to the safety of our partner agencies, and our volunteer needs.
Current volunteer sessions are being capped at smaller numbers and volunteers are spread out at those stations. This is to best accommodate social distancing while still packing vital food resources, in accordance with guidelines around large groups. We are also limiting volunteering to ages 18-60 at this time, to best protect vulnerable populations.
There is personal protection equipment available at the Food Bank, however if you have these on hand and can bring them, it would allow the Food Bank to conserve those resources. All volunteers must wear gloves. All surfaces are wiped down and sanitized before and after each volunteer session with wipes that contain at least 60% alcohol. We’ve hired additional housekeeping staff to make this possible. We’ve removed focal points like iPad sign in and the name tag station.
All volunteers must wash their hands upon entering the Food Bank, before starting a project. Team members will be on site to direct you to the restrooms. Best practice from the CDC—whether at you’re at the Food Bank or not—wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
If you are feeling sick, or displaying any symptoms of illness, please stay home. It is true that we rely on volunteer power to get the job done, but we need you to be healthy and operating at 100% to make that happen! Please do not put yourself or anyone else at risk by coming to volunteer when sick. If you are displaying signs of illness while on site at the Food Bank, one of our team members will ask you to return home.
If you sign up and can no longer volunteer, please let our team know so they can fill the empty slot. You can check for any possible changes in your email or this page before coming in for your volunteer session. With your support we can help make sure no one goes hungry during this uncertain time.
Important Notes On Food Safety And Hygiene
Our staff, Partner Agencies, and volunteers are of the utmost importance to our operation and ability to serve, so we are taking extra steps to ensure their safety.
For your awareness and reassurance, we want to share some of the Food Bank’s standard, routine practices around food safety and hygiene: the Food Bank has regular food safety inspections from independent entities (like NCDA, USDA, AIB, and Feeding America) and works to maintain the highest level of cleanliness and sanitation for the safety of the food we provide to our partner agencies, as well as those who enter our facilities to support our work.
We thank you for all your do for the Food Bank and the communities we have the privilege to support and empower. Please take care of yourselves and your family and follow the CDC for guidelines and updates: cdc.gov/COVID19